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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hamas Invited for Early March

ReutersKhalil Abu Laila, in Gaza on Thursday, confirmed the invitation was sent.
Russia has agreed to hold talks with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas at the beginning of next month, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Officials in Moscow previously said the talks with Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction and which swept to an upset victory in a Jan. 25 Palestinian election, would be in late February.

No reason was given for the new time frame for the talks, which have upset Israel and the United States by challenging their campaign to isolate Hamas unless it renounces violence and recognizes the Jewish state's right to exist.

A Hamas leader said in the Gaza Strip that the group had received an official Russian invitation. Khalil Abu Laila said the invitation had been sent to Khaled Mashaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas, and that a precise date for the visit would be set later. Hamas has already said it would accept Moscow's invitation.

The Russian initiative has seemed to open a crack in the Quartet of Middle East mediators, which also comprises the United Nations, European Union and the United States.

But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow agreed that Hamas must commit to seeking peace with Israel to win international acceptance.

"We will work toward Hamas accepting the Quartet's positions. This is not just the Quartet's opinion but also that of the majority of nations, including Arab nations," he said after talks with EU leaders in Vienna.

 Meanwhile, the chief of the General Staff, General Yury Baluyevsky, said Thursday that Russia could decide on weapons deliveries to the Palestinians after the talks with Hamas leaders, The Associated Press reported, citing Interfax.

"This decision must be made with the new Palestinian leadership," Baluyevsky was quoted as saying. He said that two helicopters expected to be delivered to the Palestinians would be unarmed and were intended for transporting the territory's leaders.